Monday, 31 August 2009

The Lesser-Spotted NHS Manager

Unless the NHS has developed a Romulan cloaking device there can be no rational explanation for the absence of managers in the wards and corridors of our hospitals. I’ve yet to see one of these exotic beings on my particular ward during my stay here. Don’t get me wrong; I have seen the lesser-spotted NHS manager before at other hospitals… but only very occasionally.

If you want to know what one of these creatures looks like then allow me to describe the species in a little more detail. Their breeding ground is a small hatchery just outside Kings Lynn where they are raised before being dispatched to the hospitals throughout the UK. Their habitat is shared with the nesting grounds of the Greater Red-haired Receptionist, another rare and even less sociable breed found in GP surgeries up and down the land. There is only the one species of lesser-spotted NHS manager and as there is little variation spotting one shouldn’t be too difficult.

So, how do you recognise this rare creature? Well, to begin with, sex is a pretty good indicator. The species is exclusively female, comfortably plump and matures in its early to mid forties. The plumage is a man-made twin-set with the occasional frilled white frontage and ever-present spectacles on a chain. Head feathers vary in colour but normally range from garish aubergine through to peroxide blonde. The feathers are constantly preened and usually held in place by a cocktail of various stiffening chemicals and dyes. There’s one essential feature that makes spotting the manager really simple… the presence of a clipboard in the crook of the arm at all times.

As far as the call of the manager goes it’s very muted indeed. The species finds it difficult to communicate and only becomes really vocal when reporting to superiors or dismissing patients’ complaints; otherwise she remains stubbornly silent.

The only action I’ve ever seen one of these creatures perform is the running of a finger along a door ledge as it checks for the presence of dust. This is followed by avid box ticking before said manager glides noiselessly from the ward, exiting as a small wisp of vapour in the fashion of a vampire.

Expert opinion is divided on the true function of this shy creature although they are known to have few if any natural predators and therefore their numbers have increased considerably in recent years and show no signs of decline.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Never a cold bed

When I was a boy I can remember my father telling me how there was never a cold bed to be found in the villages surrounding the building site of Brunel’s great Box Tunnel. What he meant by this was that as one workman left his bed for a shift, another worker coming ‘off shift’ would jump straight into it. It was that sort of efficiency that enabled the great engineer to complete the Great Western Railway in record time. Clearly someone in the NHS has been taking a look at Brunel’s management techniques in order to wring a bit more efficiency out of the NHS. That person is known in the NHS as a ‘bed manager’.

When I arrived at this hospital I was shown to a lovely little room all of my own. The salmon pink walls and beige linoleum were acceptable and there was the welcome sight of a TV attached to the wall on a bracket.

“This will be your room during your stay with us,” the delightfully fragrant nurse told me.

Words cannot describe how relieved I felt. Frankly, the thought of sharing a room with five other men for the best part of two months didn’t really appeal all that much. I mean, even in prison it's only two to a cell. I unpacked my belongings and started to settle in. Okay, so the TV didn’t work properly and the view was of a brick wall but it was my little personal space – my minuscule island of privacy.

The following morning I was wheeled down to the operating theatre for my half-hour operation thinking that perhaps my stay wasn’t going to be so grim after all. An hour or so later I woke up in the recovery ward and was tended to by yet another lovely angel of mercy. She even made me a cup of tea. In fact, she made me five cups of tea during the six hours I was lying there. Why was I flat on my back in recovery for six hours? Because the bastard bed manager had given my bed away the minute I left my room.

“They’re shifting you to another ward,” the nurse told me.

“With my own room?” I asked.

She snorted and grinned at the same time. “I should co-co!” she guffawed. “Who do you think you are, Abu Hamza?”

Dear reader… it had all been a cruel deception.

Now, I’m a man of mild manners and not given to banging my fists upon the table lightly. However, whether it was the effect of the anaesthetic (that milky coloured stuff that did Michael Jackson in) or simply the build up of months of cruelty at the hands of the NHS, I’m afraid I snapped and threw all my toys out of my recovery trolley.

My tantrum had the desired effect and a member of the PALS team (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) was summoned to nod her head sympathetically as she agreed with all my grievances before telling me that there’d was more chance of Gordon Brown saying sorry before I would get a room of my own.

I eventually did get my own room but how long I manage to hang on to it remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you should find yourself detained at Andy Burnham’s pleasure, just remember to ask the nurse for a bedpan. For God’s sake whatever you do don’t get out of bed! If you do leave your bed for a pee you can be sure that the bed manager will have taken it away before you can get back from the bathroom.

Brunel… you’ve got a lot to learn!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Don't do it, Barack!

The liberal world may be clamouring for President Obama to create an NHS for the USA but I'd be a bit more cautious if I were he. In fact, I'd invite Barack to take a look at my lunch tray today to see what state-planned healthcare really means.

I've been a guest of the NHS (the envy of the world) for 14 weeks so far this year. How I managed to survive is a wonder even to me. You see, the NHS is run along strictly Soviet lines. In order to make the Soviet experience even more authentic, my hospital has provided plenty of Eastern European charm. Take our ward manager, for example. I don't know the lady's real name but I call her Rosa... as in Rosa Krebs, that charming lady in the Bond movies with poisoned spikes in her shoes. Marvellous woman. I think she may be Moldovan but I'm not entirely sure. If anyone ever wants an enforcer then Rosa's your girl. She has all the ruthlessness of Stalin coupled with the efficiency of the Wehrmacht and the charm of a great white shark. However, to Rosa's credit, she did manage to retrieve my lunch as it was being wheeled back to the kitchen as I was overlooked yet again!

Oh how I wish Rosa hadn't chased that trolley. On paper, the sound of Southern-style drumsticks was quite appealing. Unfortunately the menu didn't state the origin of southern. In my case it was southern Ethiopia. Never have I seen such scrawny and aged chicken. There was more stick than drum. This was a case of chicken bones coated in a rock hard material that would have been better employed as the surface for Heathrow's third runway. Alongside the Southern-style bones was a heap of murdered cabbage and something described as sautéed potatoes. It is beyond even my fertile imagination to identify what the potatoes had been sautéed in, but my best guess would be a bedpan.

Never mind there's always pudding to look forward to... isn't there? Sadly no. The jam roly poly had indeed been rolled, probably across the kitchen floor by the taste of it. And how anyone could screw up custard quite so badly I can't imagine. It wasn't thick enough to have lumps. Yellow water would be a more accurate description.

So here I am with another six weeks to go in the care of Rosa and her team. And Barack Obama wants to give this to America! If he does he'll certainly go down in history. Now if you'll excuse me I'll stop there as I can hear the sound of the warm-drinks trolley coming.